Patients in a town in southwest France are fighting to get their GP back after she was banned from practising medicine, despite the area being considered a ‘medical desert’ for its lack of doctors.
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GP Nadine De La Fuente was banned from practising in Carmaux, Tarn (Occitanie) because she has not been fully vaccinated against Covid.
Patients only found out via a note stuck on the GP surgery door. The doctor received a letter from the regional health authority, the ARS Occitanie, on January 21, 2023, banning her from practising because she had not supplied proof of her Covid-19 vaccination status.
In response, patients set up an online petition in support of Dr De La Fuente.
It has gathered more than 1,700 signatures. There is also a Facebook page set up in support, to enable “patients to show their support and demand that the relevant authorities do what is necessary to lift the ban”.
The mayor of Carmaux, Jean-Louis Bousquet, said that he felt both sides were at fault in the drama.
“I think both sides are as guilty as the other in this story. There is wrongdoing on both sides, ” he told France 3.
The situation is even more tense because there are only 10 doctors practising in the 10,000-inhabitant town.
Cramaux is considered to be a ‘medical desert’ - an area where patients have access to fewer than 2.5 consultations with a local GP per year on average.
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Some departments are more affected by the ‘medical desert’ phenomenon in France than others.
Mr Bousquet said: “It’s a real shame for patients because at the moment, quite a few are in difficulty. Covid seemed like it had passed, we thought we’d got out of it, but now we have people…who are going to suffer.
“On the one hand, the ARS is following the law [a little] strictly, but on the other hand, we have a doctor who is not doing what they need to conform to the law and who is therefore putting patients in difficulty.”
The obligation for healthcare professionals to have full Covid vaccinations came into force on September 15, 2021. Those who refused were suspended or eventually banned from their jobs. However, the ban attracted considerable opposition among some, who said it worsened the hospital and GP staffing crisis.
In March, French medical body La Haute Autorité de santé will announce whether current vaccination mandates for healthcare workers are to be maintained in France.
President Emmanuel Macron said last November that potential reinstatement of unvaccinated healthcare professionals would be carried out on a scientific and ethical basis, as opposed to “a political choice”.
The first unvaccinated healthcare worker to return to work did so in December 2022.
French ‘medical deserts’: Mayor’s plea over lack of rural GPs